From an engineering perspective, a strain from a load reflects not just the total amount of the load, but also the dynamics of the load. A bus stopped on a bridge is a certain load of weight. That same bus dropped on to the bridge from 20 feet up is a different load strain. (I’m probably not using the right engineering words.)
A small steady amount of glucose coming into your body from your digestive tract requires a certain response from your body to handle it. That same amount coming in from your digestive tract over, say 30 minutes, requires much more response from our body. The response may be much more extensive and complex and have other consequences. For example, if you secrete a lot of insulin into the blood stream to deal with a fast influx of glucose, then your blood sugar may dip down quickly an hour or so later. If the response of your body is not enough to keep the blood glucose level from rising above normal, then you may have some damage to your body from the exposure to the high glucose level.
This is what I mean by Glucose Load Strain. It is not an amount or a number, it is your response. Is your body being strained by its efforts to cope with the amount of glucose you are consuming, especially how much is coming in how quickly. If the blood glucose is not successfully kept in the normal range, what strain or damage is this causing to your body, your functioning and your sense of well-being.
Is the amount and/or rate of glucose coming into you body causing a strain on your health?
- Is your appetite being driven by swings in blood sugar?
- Are you showing signs of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance?
- Is your fasting blood glucose above normal?
- Does your blood glucose go up above normal after meals?
- Do you crave sweets, starches and/or fatty foods that contain sugars/starches?
- Do you have diabetes or pre-diabetes?
All of these things affect the appetite/satiety control system. Any of these effects can be so strong that weight control can, in some people, be very difficult without addressing them.
If any of these conditions apply to you, you will likely find it much easier to improve your well-being and your health by adjusting your eating habits to change your carbohydrate intake (sweets and starches) so that the glucose load (total amount plus speed of absorption) stays below your current glucose load handling limits.
Carbohydrates are sugars and starches. Fiber in food is also classed as a carbohydrate, but it does not get digested into glucose.
Sugars include sucrose, which is what we commonly call “sugar” or “table sugar”. There are many other sugars. The main other ones in food are glucose, fructose and lactose. The sugar in your blood is glucose. When we say “blood sugar” we mean the amount of glucose in the blood.
All starches are long chains of glucose. All starches are digested into glucose molecules in the digestive tract. Some types of food are digested more slowly than others and so we say that some foods give you fast carbs and some foods give you slow carbs. While this is true, for many of the foods you eat this difference may not be as meaningful as you think. This is called the “Glycemic Index”. ”Glycemic” refers to glucose and blood, and it means the impact of that food on raising your blood glucose level. If you look at a table listing the glycemic index of foods, you will see a number. This number was derived from testing some people by giving them the food and testing the blood.
Part of the problem is that different people have amazingly different responses to the same food and this can’t be predicted. You can only find out about your response to foods and meals by testing yourself with a blood glucose monitor.
Another problem is that people eat different amounts of carbohydrate from different foods. If you aet a meal with chicken, potatoes and green beans, the amount of glucose coming into our body from the potatoes is going to be many times higher han the amount from the green beans. It is hard to judge that difference just by looking at the glycemic index number, which is about the character of how the food behaves and means nothing without consideration of the amount of the food.
Also, the glycemic index is loved by the food industry because fructose does not show up in the blood glucose tests after meals. A small amount of fructose is not specifically bad for you in itself, such as the amount of fructose in a few moderate servings of fruit in a day (unless you have to limit your total carbohydrate level or have addiction triggered by the taste of sweet foods). However, high amounts of fructose are just as bad for you as glucose and possibly even worse. Fructose is in sucrose (table sugar) and in high fructose corn syrup, which is the major sugar used in processed “foods” such as soft drinks.
While it is somewhat useful, a more important thing to consider is the “Glycemic Load” of the portion of food you are eating. This refers to how much that serving amount of that food is likely to raise your blood glucose level. For example, a couple of slices of whole wheat bread is going to raise your blood sugar much more over-all than a couple of pieces of hard candy. For most people, most of the glucose in their food is in the form of starch, not in the form of sugar.
Of course, generally we eat our food in meals or snacks that contain more than one type of food. You can figure out the total carbohydrate of the meal. However, the balance of the different foods and how they are prepared affects the speed of the absorption of the glucose. The only way to know how it is affecting your blood sugar is to test. Unfortunately, there is no simple home test for insulin levels, so it is not possible to closely track your insulin response – even then it would be of limited use and potentially cause a lot of confusion, as the insulin blood levels vary greatly minute by minute (what the graphs show is a “smoothed” data picture).
Unfortunately, replacing significant amounts of glucose sources in your diet with fructose is no help at all. Fructose brings it’s own problems – except modest amounts, such as a few moderate-sized servings of fruit a day.